Two new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Kootenai County residents Friday as the statewide total rose to 31.
The first and only other case in North Idaho was announced on Thursday in Kootenai County. The other four northern counties – Bonner, Boundary, Benewah and Shoshone – did not have a confirmed case as of Friday evening.
One of the two new cases is a woman in her 60s who is in self-isolation at home and experiencing mild symptoms, according to the health district. The second is a man younger than 30 years old, also with mild symptoms, who has been in self-isolation since traveling.
A Kootenai County man in his 60s, the first identified case, is self-isolating out-of-state.
Health officials are investigating who may have come into contact with the patients diagnosed with COVID-19 to alert and monitor them for symptoms.
The Panhandle Health District had sent about 220 samples to the state lab as of Friday afternoon, according to the health district. Officials were actively monitoring 34 people for COVID-19 symptoms.
In a press conference on Friday, Gov. Brad Little said he would not immediately impose additional restrictions on the residents and businesses of Kootenai County, but indicated that could change if officials believe there is community spread.
Kootenai County officials were not considering forcing businesses or restaurants closed when the health district confirmed the first local case Thursday afternoon, according to Chief Chris Way of the Kootenai County Emergency Medical Services System. Instead officials recommended adhering to strict social distancing guidelines.
Officials in south central Idaho said Blaine County was experiencing community spread Thursday when it reported 16 cases, which included two health care workers. State officials then ordered residents not to leave their homes unless they had a vital reason to do so. The number of cases there increased to 19 on Friday.
“If we get community spread, we will work with the county and the cities about what the next steps are,” said Little, who declared a state of emergency last week.
Little has also resisted closing schools and businesses statewide, though Coeur d’Alene Public Schools will be closed through April 6.
Close to 700 people have been tested for COVID-19 by the state lab, plus about 220 at commercial labs, as of Friday, according to the state health department. The Southwest District Health reported its first case in Canyon County Friday afternoon in a man who had recently traveled somewhere with community spread.
Little said that while the state’s ability to test for the virus has increased, “it’s still not what we need.” Not everyone who wants to be tested can, he added.
“If you’re young and you’ve got flu-like symptoms, just stay home,” Little said.
Asked about closing the border between Washington and Idaho, Little said “we haven’t gotten to that point,” but he did not rule it out.
“We’re looking at all options all the time,” Little said.
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